The context for the Israel-Hamas war of 2009

Published: 5 February 2009
Beyond Images Special Briefing 234

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This Special Briefing from the Beyond Images Project provides context for the Israel-Hamas war of December 2008/January 2009.

We have provided you with a range of facts, quotes, arguments and counter-arguments, many of which are largely unseen in international media coverage.

And we provide a range of concise ‘key messages'.

The Briefing is designed to support balanced and rational Israel advocacy.

Israel does not have the right to uncritical support. But it is entitled to expect informed understanding, and our aim is to help to foster that understanding.

We have divided this Briefing into the following three Parts. Each part is backed up by a wide variety of sources including leading global media sources, expert thinktank reports, official statements, and Arab language media reports:

•  Part 1: Hamas ideology, track-record and the ‘engagement' debate;

•  Part 2: the build up to the Israel-Hamas war, from 2004 to 2008; and

•  Part 3: key issues during the war of 2008/9

We cross-refer to many Beyond Images Briefings which have been published on the website in the period 2003-2008, and which are live on the site today.

This Special Briefing has been written by Andrew White, lawyer and author of the Beyond Images information website ( ).


Part 1 – Hamas ideology, track-record, and the 'engagement' issue

1. The Hamas Charter – extracts

2. ‘The Jews could have a state in Europe '…. – by Hamas founder Sheikh Yassin

3. Hamas leaders in their own words

4. ‘We want all of Palestine ' – Hamas goals remain unchanged

5. ‘Hamas has come round to the idea of Israel in the 1967 borders….'. True?

6. ‘Armed resistance' – the Hamas record of attacks on Israeli civilians

7. What do Hamas mean by ‘resistance' to Israel ? What's the strategy?

8. ‘Hamas were democratically elected by the Palestinians, so we have to deal with them….' – the issues

9. ‘The West must engage with Hamas….', and the Northern Ireland analogy

Part 2 – The build-up to the Israel-Hamas war

10. Ariel Sharon : Israel 's vision for Gaza after disengagement

11. Qassam rocket attacks in 2005, and the killing of Israeli children

12. Attempt to suicide bomb an Israeli hospital: open letter from Gaza doctor

13. Orange ! Opposition in Israel to disengagement

14. The G8 2005 summit pledge of $3bn to the Palestinians of Gaza

15. Intensification of Palestinian attacks as Israel pulls out of Gaza

16. Hamas bomb chief's declaration of renewed war against Israel in the week of disengagement

17. Is Gaza a large prison camp? Israel 's ‘blockade' of Gaza

18. Rocket attacks on Israeli energy facilities: the risk of a catastrophe

19. The quadrupling of rocket attacks in the year after the pullout

20. The role of Sderot Media and The Israel Project in conveying the reality of life in Sderot

21. Gaza 's plight: anguished self-criticism by leading Palestinian

22. ‘Twenty seconds to take cover': Palestinian attacks on Israeli kindergartens

23. The Palestinian weapons build-up 2007

24. ‘How many Jews did Mama kill today?' Children on Hamas TV

25. The Hamas rocket offensive against Sderot

26. ‘The Western economic boycott has brought Gaza to its knees….' – True?

27. How an Israeli ambulance team saved a Gaza Palestinian child's life….

28. Access by Gaza Palestinians to Israeli hospitals: the facts

29. Israeli attacks, Palestinian attacks: moral equivalence? cycle of violence?

30. Israel offers to pull out of 93% of the West Bank , plus 7% more land: Palestinians say no, in the summer of 2008

31. Barack Obama's statement during his Sderot visit of July 2008

32. The Grad-Katyusha missile threat

33. ‘ Israel did not honour the ceasefire, so Hamas resumed rockets….' – True?

Part 3 - Key issues during the war 2008/9

34. Israel strikes Hamas in Gaza : Palestinian, Egyptian, European and American voices blame Hamas

35. The humanitarian case for Israel 's war against Hamas, by Amos Oz and others

36. The fighting in Gaza , proportionality and the laws of war

37. Gaza Palestinian victims of Hamas human rights violations and war crimes

38. Israeli humanitarian support to the people of Gaza : food, medical supplies, access to hospital treatment, fuel and electricity – the facts

39. Building coexistence: a message from the UK Chief Rabbi

Other relevant Beyond Images resources

Part 1 – Hamas ideology, track-record, and the ‘engagement' issue

1. The Hamas Charter: Extracts

The ‘Islamic Resistance Movement' - Hamas – was founded in 1988.

•  Article 1 of the founding Charter of Hamas declares that Israel will remain ‘until Islam eliminates it'

•  Article 2 declares that Islam is involved in a ‘wide ranging battle against the Jews'

•  Article 6 states that Hamas ‘strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine '

•  Article 12 declares Jihad to be a religious duty

•  Article 13 states that ‘peace initiatives, so-called peaceful solutions, and international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem are contrary to be beliefs of the Islamic resistance movement….'

While the Charter calls for Muslims to educate the world about Allah, and to create “social solidarity”, it also contains blatantly anti-semitic statements. Its recurring, central theme is the struggle against the very existence of Israel .

Key messages:

•  The Hamas Charter is a declaration of permanent war between Hamas and Israel

•  Hamas has never amended or revoked the Charter. It's that charter, and the actions and attitudes which it reflects, which is the root reason why Gaza has been plunged into self-imposed international isolation (the main exception being Iran ) since the Hamas takeover

•  If Hamas have changed their views (which we don't believe they have – see section 5 below), why have they not amended their Charter?

For more click here: ‘The Hamas Charter: Extracts' (Beyond Images Briefing 165, dated 15 January 2006 )

2. ‘The Jews could have a state in Europe …..' – from an interview with Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin

Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin told German news magazine Der Spiegel in an interview published on 8 December 2003 that the Jews could “have a state in Europe ”. He also stated that Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders would be an “interim solution” .

At the time Sheikh Yassin was killed in an Israeli strike in March 2004, Hamas had been responsible for the murder of hundreds of Israeli men, women and children in indiscriminate suicide bombings. Sheikh Yassin was the inspiration for these attacks.

Key messages:

•  There can never be peaceful coexistence between Israel and its neighbours as long as such views carry influence

•  Unfortunately, such views continue to guide Hamas. And they also shape the thinking of those in Western intellectual circles who deny the legitimacy of a Jewish state in the region, and who claim that Israel is a criminal implant on the indigenous Palestinians

•  Recognising Israel 's right to exist as a sovereign entity in the land of Israel is the foundation for peace. The Hamas narrative of history denies that recognition

For more click here: “The Jews could have a state in Europe …”: the goals of Hamas, by its founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin' (Beyond Images Briefing 74, dated 10 December 2003 )

3. Hamas leaders in their own words….

In the months after Israeli disengagement from Gaza , and in the run-up to the Palestinian elections of January 2006, Hamas leaders escalated their calls in Arab and Iranian language media for violent rejection of Israel .

Typical is the following:-

“… We do not recognise the Israeli enemy, nor his right to be our neighbour, not to stay on the land, nor his ownership of any inch of land…..”

- Mahmoud al-Zahar, Hamas ‘foreign minister', from an interview with Palestinian TV, reported by Newsday, 17 January 2006

And this:-

“This assembly takes place after the liberation of Gaza . Who knows when we will celebrate the liberation of Jerusalem , Haifa , Jaffa and the rest of Palestine . Hamas, together with the Palestinian people, will implement its policy using a new language, without feeling any urge to meet with the enemy or negotiate with it…. Hamas will continue to wield its weapons and to claim its right to resist. Resistance will continue to be a strategic option until the last piece of Palestinian land has been liberated, and until the last refugee returns…”

- Khaled Mashal, Damascus-based Hamas leader, at a Damascus conference, reported by Iranian News Agency INRA – – on 31 December 2005

(Note: Israel wished to prevent Hamas from taking part in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, because Hamas did not accept the principles of Oslo and the two-state solution. But under international pressure, Israel withdrew its opposition. Hamas was elected, in large part because of the revulsion among Palestinians over the corruption of Fatah).

Key messages:

•  Hamas ideology is reflected not just in its Charter, and in its track record of violence against Israeli civilians (see Section 6, below)

•  It is also reflected in the words of their leaders, their unrelenting demonisation of Israel , and their denial of its legitimacy

•  What matters is what they say to their own followers, not at polite meetings with European politicians and civil servants who would like to ‘engage' with them

For more click here:Hamas leaders in their own words' (Beyond Images Briefing 166, dated 31 January 2006 )

4. 'We want all of Palestine …' – Hamas goals remain unchanged

Many parts of the Western media dilute the statements of Hamas leaders, and whitewash the ideology of the movement.

For example, the BBC News website currently includes a profile of Hamas ‘foreign minister' Dr Mahmoud al-Zahar which concentrates on his imprisonment by Israel , and on his medical qualifications. While describing him as ‘hardline', it only refers once to his beliefs, and this is the quote which the BBC News website provides:-

“We are not playing at terrorism or violence. We are under occupation. The Israelis are continuing their aggression against our people, killing, detention, demolition, and in order to stop these processes, we run effective self-defence by all means, including using guns….”

This statement, chosen by the BBC to reflect the views of al-Zahar, makes him sound like a defensive-minded leader with a legitimate claim. Extreme in methods, but understandable in goals.

The BBC website makes no reference to the following statement, also by Mahmoud al-Zahar:

“ Israel is a vile entity that has been planted on our soil, and has no historical, religious or cultural legitimacy. We cannot normalise our relations with this entity. The history of this region has proven time and again that occupation is temporary. Thousands of years ago, the Romans occupied the land and eventually they left. The Persians, the Crusaders, and English [also] came and went. The Zionists have come, and they too will leave. [We say] no to recognising Israel , regardless of the price we have to pay [for our refusal]….”

- Mahmoud al-Zahar, quoted in Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat, London , 12 October 2006

Key messages:

•  Is it any surprise that an increasing number of people favour engagement with Hamas, when the views of its leaders are blurred in this way?

•  This pattern recurs in media coverage of Hamas. They are described as extreme, but their most benign statements are routinely quoted, and their rejectionist statements are concealed by the media from public view.

•  Every time Dr al-Zahar is quoted in the media, the simple question should be asked – what about his description of Israel as a “vile entity” with no legitimacy ? Why not make mention of that, too?

For more click here: ‘We want all of Palestine ' – Hamas goals remain unchanged (Beyond Images Briefing 186, dated 12 November 2006 )

5. ‘Hamas has come round to the idea of Israel within the 1967 borders….' – true?

Many Western commentators claim that Hamas has indeed come round to the idea of Israel existing within the 1967 borders.

For instance, Jeremy Greenstock, the former British Ambassador to the UN, wrote in the Guardian newspaper on 16 January 2009 that “Hamas has no charter for the destruction of Israel in its political programme, and just wants the Israel occupation [since 1967] to end…”. This view was echoed recently by many politicians debating the war in the British parliament.

This claim is not new, and in fact for many years certain Hamas spokespeople have been stating that they could accept Israel inside the 1967 borders.

But that is not all they say . In statements in Arab language media Hamas leaders admit in the same breath that this ‘acceptance' of Israel is a tactical ploy in their long-term strategy of resistance, leading to Israel 's eventual elimination.

For example (with our emphasis added):-

“Hamas supports the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 – as an interim solution ….”

- Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza, interviewed by Gulf News Daily, Bahrain, 20 January 2006 ( ‘interim solution' is the same phrase that was used by Sheikh Yassin, Haniyeh's mentor – see section 2 above)

“We aim to liberate all the lands… if we have the option we will establish a state on every inch of land within our 1967 borders, but this does not by any means imply that we will relinquish our right to all the Palestinian lands. We want all of Palestine from the Mediterranean sea, to the Jordan river ….”

- Mahmoud al-Zahar, Al-Hayat, London , 12 October 2006

“In the eyes of the resistance, tahdieh (calm / ceasefires) is a trick within the resistance plans…. I cannot be satisfied with the 1967 borders alone ….”

- Khaled Mashal, Damascus-based leader of Hamas, quoted by MEMRI, Report Number 894, in April 2005 (see )

Key messages:

•  These and many other Hamas statements are routinely ignored by Western media and politicians or they are simply unaware of them

•  Hamas admit they do not regard a two-state solution as a basis for peace, but as an ‘interim solution' only, and as part of their long-term strategy of wearing down and eliminating the Jewish state

•  It is a serious misreading of Hamas goals and tactics to believe that Hamas has come round to the idea of two-state coexistence side by side with Israel

For more click here: ‘Hamas has come round to the idea of Israel within the 1967 borders….' (Beyond Images Briefing 230, dated 19 January 2009 )

6. ‘Armed resistance'? Hamas bombings of Israeli civilians

In recent years, much attention has been given to Hamas rocket and missile fire into Israel . But many people seem to have forgotten the Hamas track-record of suicide bombings carried out against Israeli civilians, which stretches back to 1994. There have been at least 42 suicide attacks, together with many attempts and foiled attacks, as well as drive-by shootings, machine-gun attacks etc. Here are some of the suicide bomb attacks for which Hamas claimed responsibility, in the period 1994 to 2006:-

No32A bus, mainly carrying Israeli schoolchildren, Patt junction, Jerusalem
19 dead, 70 injured

Sbarro Pizzeria, Jerusalem
15 dead, 130 injured

Snooker club, Rishon Letzion
15 dead, 55 injured

Student cafeteria, Hebrew University , Jerusalem
10 dead, 85 injured

Park Hotel Passover meal, Netanya
30 dead, 140 injured

Teenagers on pedestrian precinct, Jerusalem
11 dead, 180 injured

No2 bus carrying Jewish worshippers back from the Western wall
23 dead, 130 injured

Shopping precinct, central Jerusalem (triple suicide bombing)
23 dead, 150 injured

Moment café, Jerusalem
11 dead, 54 injured

Shopping centre, Netanya
5 dead, 100 injured

Matza restaurant, Haifa
15 killed, 40 injured

Dolphinarium discotheque, Tel Aviv
21 dead, 120 injured

Port facilities, Ashdod
10 dead, 16 injured

Petrol station, Ariel
3 dead, 20 injured

Beachfront bar, Tel-Aviv
3 dead, 60 injured

Hitchhiking post, Tzfirin
9 dead, 30 injured

Café Hillel, Jerusalem
7 dead, 50 injured

Suicide bombings of Israeli passenger buses

Number 11 bus, Haifa – 16 dead

Number 960 bus, Haifa – 11 dead

Number 361 bus, Meron – 9 dead

Number 4 bus, Tel-Aviv – 6 dead

Number 20 bus, Jerusalem – 11 dead

No 37 bus, Haifa – 17 dead

No 6 bus, Jerusalem - 7 dead

No 14A bus, Jerusalem – 17 dead

No 18 bus, Jerusalem – 49 dead (the same bus route attacked on successive weeks)

Two buses following each other in Beersheva – 16 dead

Key messages:

•  Hamas has never renounced terror

•  Their leaders have never expressed the slightest remorse for these killings, or regret over the suffering caused

•  This violence is a central plank of what Hamas describes as ‘armed resistance' (see section 7 below)

•  Many of those who planned and inspired these attacks hold high positions of power in Hamas today

•  Hamas glorifies those who carried out these killings. They encourage children to celebrate in the streets when bombings take place (see for instance Beyond Images Briefing 104 – ‘Sweets on the Streets')

•  This culture of violence blocks progress towards peace

For more click here : ‘Armed resistance'? Hamas bombings of Israeli civilians'

(Beyond Images Briefing 169, dated 27 March 2006 )

See also:

‘Sweets on the streets: glorification of terror in Palestinian society' (Beyond Images Briefing 104, dated 10 November 2004 )

‘Before September 2000: When the Palestinian suicide bombings began' (Beyond Images Briefing 51, dated 5 May 2003 )

7. What do Hamas mean by ‘resistance' to Israel ?

Hamas may wish to eliminate Israel , but they cannot do so militarily, as such. They believe that the way to achieve the demise of Israel is by so-called ‘resistance' which aims at striking at Israeli society, exposing its ‘weakness', and methodically eroding Israel's resolve. It's the vision which drives Hamas and the rockets which have struck Israel since disengagement. And it explains why Hamas are willing to ‘fight' Israel , knowing that civilian Palestinians will suffer terribly, and knowing that in traditional military terms it cannot “win”.

Top analysts of Arab affairs Ehud Ya'ari and Jonathan Spyer dissected the ‘resistance doctrine' in work published in 2006 and 2007, which has proven to be an incredibly accurate prediction of the war, and Hamas methods.

The doctrine is promoted by Iran , and shared by Hamas and Hizbollah.

For more click here: ‘What do Hamas and Hizbollah want? What do they mean by ‘resistance' to Israel ?' (Beyond Images Briefing 229, dated 16 January 2009 )

8. ‘Hamas were democratically elected by the Palestinians – we have to talk to them….' – the issues

This is another very frequently made argument. In the words of Israeli professor Avi Shlaim: “Hamas is the democratically elected government of the Palestinian people, not the corrupt regime of Mahmoud Abbas ….” (UK-based Guardian newspaper, 26 January 2009 ).

It is true that Hamas were democratically elected - to the Palestinian Parliament in January 2006. But they have sustained and expanded their power in Gaza undemocratically, ever since then.

In particular, the Hamas ‘takeover' of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 was in fact an extremely violent and ruthless coup against their rivals Fatah. Here are some details:-

•  Palestinian hospitals were used by Hamas gunmen to launch armed attacks on Fatah men;

•  Over 140 Palestinian opponents were killed by Hamas during the coup

•  Some Palestinian opponents were thrown, hands and legs tied, off high rise buildings

•  Opponents of Hamas were shot in the knees (a practice which has intensified in January 2009, since the end of three week fighting – see section 37 below)

•  During the takeover, Fatah men were executed in front of their wives and children

•  Two UN workers were shot dead in the cross-fire

•  According to Israeli human rights group B'tselem, the Hamas takeover involved “war crimes”

This is how the organisation which had been “democratically elected” to the Palestinian parliament seized executive power.

In Beyond Images Briefing 198 we chronicle the takeover.

Furthermore, since the takeover, there have been many well-documented reports of Hamas torture and intimidation of opponents. See the highly critical press releases concerning Hamas which have been issued by Human Rights Watch ( ) and Amnesty International ( ), which you can access by searching ‘Hamas' on their websites.

For more click here: The Hamas Takeover of Gaza : Quickly Forgotten Facts, (Beyond Images Briefing 198, dated 15 July 2007 )

9. ‘The West must engage with Hamas….', and the Northern Ireland analogy

The US and the European Union refuse to deal with Hamas until it recognises Israel , agrees to comply with past agreements, and renounces violence.

However, ever since they were elected in 2006, voices have been calling for “engagement” with Hamas. In 2009 these calls are intensifying.

This Briefing explains the case against ‘engagement' with Hamas, and addresses and debunks the analogy between Israel and Hamas, and the British Government and the IRA in Northern Ireland . We argue as follows:

•  Hamas advocates dismantling of Israel - there is no basis for engagement with them

•  To ‘engage' with Hamas would reward and encourage their military build-up

•  Hamas demonises Israel , prepares Palestinian society for long-term confrontation, and practises internal repression of Palestinians

•  Engagement would embolden Hamas and give legitimacy to its ideology

•  There is an absence of past precedents for successful engagement with Islamist forces or rejectionist Muslim states

•  The growing calls in Europe to ‘engage' with Hamas since 2007 have actually contributed to them digging in their heels

For more click here: ‘Western countries must engage with Hamas' (Beyond Images Briefing 201, dated 31 August 2007 )

January 2009 update – Foremost advocate of a two-state solution calls on Western countries not to ‘empower' Hamas

Dr Mark Heller is a foremost scholar of Israeli-Palestinian relations, and principal researcher at the Institute of National Security Studies at Tel-Aviv University . Over 25 years ago, Heller wrote the pioneering book ‘A Palestinian State', addressing the diplomatic, military, economic and practical aspects of creating one. Today, he remains a foremost advocate of a viable two-state solution.

In an article published in the International Herald Tribune ( ) on 29 January 2009 , Heller calls for the international community not to ‘empower' Hamas.

He argues that it would be a “huge mistake” following the war to engage with Hamas, when there is “not a shred of evidence” that they have meaningfully modified their goal of eliminating Israel .

Heller maintains that if Western countries “empower” Hamas by engaging with it, by accepting its claim that it is still in control of Gaza , and by accepting that reconstruction should be handled by it, this would doom the chances of a long-term ceasefire, and it would also doom the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“The West” concludes Heller “must not collaborate in the entrenchment of Hamas power….”

The analogy between Israel-Hamas, and peace in Northern Ireland

Some argue that just as the British Government engaged with the IRA / Sinn Fein to make peace in Northern Ireland , so Israel should engage with Hamas.

The argument goes: “You have to talk to your enemies at some point….”

We have dealt with this argument earlier in this section 9, as well as in Briefing 201. The most authoritative and rigorous challenge to those who make the analogy is a paper written in 2008 by John Bew and Martyn Frampton entitled:

Talking To Terrorists: Myths, Misconceptions and Misapplication of the Northern Ireland Peace Process (Paper No566, September 2008)

The authors are both historians at Cambridge University , and acknowledged experts on European terrorism. They argue that while the analogy has superficial appeal, it does not stand up to critical scrutiny, based on a historical understanding of how the IRA-British engagement actually happened.

The Bew/Frampton paper can be downloaded from the website of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs ( ).  

Part 2 - The build-up to the Israel-Hamas war

10. Ariel Sharon : Israel 's vision for Gaza after disengagement

It is often claimed that Israel decided upon disengagement in order to tighten its grip on the West Bank , and to reduce the chances of Palestinian statehood.

This is contradicted by the facts, and by the history.

Here's what then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said when unveiling the disengagement plan to the Israeli public in 2004:-

“We desire a life living side-by-side, in understanding and peace. We have no desire to rule over the Palestinians, we have no desire to run their affairs… Recently we made the historic decision that this is our desire. I have paid a heavy personal and political price for my leadership in this decision….

…. Our goal [in disengaging] is that the Palestinians will be able to live in dignity and freedom in an independent state, and, together with us, enjoy good neighbourly relations, while cooperating for the good of both peoples….”

Key messages:

•  Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan, and his wider goals, shook Israeli society

•  Unlike what Western critics claim, Sharon 's goal was not to frustrate a two-state solution. Rather, it was to create momentum towards a two-state solution, and to give the Palestinians the opportunity to take their future into their own hands

•  Just as Israeli society has gone through the internal pain of sacrificing some long-held beliefs, now is the time for Palestinian society to stop restating well-worn formulae of victimhood, and to confront some painful choices of their own

For more click here: ‘Ariel Sharon, the disengagement plan and the Palestinians' (Beyond Images Briefing 127, dated 11 January 2005 )

11. Qassam rocket attacks in early 2005, and killings of Israeli children

Between 2003 and February 2005, over 500 Qassam rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel . Disengagement had not yet taken place.

This Briefing describes the tragic deaths of Israeli children 15-year old Ayala Abukasis (hit by shrapnel while sheltering her brother from a rocket attack which struck as they were going to a youth group), and Dorit Aniso (2) and Yuval Abele (4), killed while playing in their garden.

We also describe the resentment felt by Palestinian villagers towards the Qassam rocket squads. The following epitomises the issue:-

“The guys who launch the Qassams don't care – they come, fire and go home to sleep. They're not from here….”

- stated by Jamil, a resident of the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun (and quoted by an Arab affairs journalist in the Jerusalem Report, 20 September 2004 )

For more click here: Qassam rocket attacks against Israel ' (Beyond Images Briefing 130, dated 17 February 2005 )

Key messages:

•  There has been a global outcry over the tragic deaths of children in Gaza during the latest fighting. And indeed, many children have lost their lives.

•  But where was the outcry when Ayala Abukasis, Dorit Aniso, and Yuval Abele were killed?

12. The attempt to suicide bomb an Israeli hospital: open letter from a Gaza doctor

In June 2005 a 21 year old Palestinian woman from Gaza , Wafa al-Biss, attempted a suicide bomb attack on Israel 's Soroka hospital in Beer Sheva, where she was a outpatient. She had been seriously injured in an accident in her kitchen, and had been recruited during her recovery by the Fatah al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade. Her bombing attempt narrowly failed, when she was intercepted at an Israeli checkpoint.

This Briefing contains a remarkable and courageous ‘open letter' published following the incident by a Palestinian doctor Izzeldin Abulaish, who resides in Gaza and worked as an obstetrician and gynaecologist at the time at the Soroka hospital.

The episode, and certainly Dr Abulaish's open letter, was ignored by most international media.

Dr Abulaish bitterly condemns the bombing attempt, and then states:-

“I have nothing but praise for the doctors, nurses and other medical staff at Soroka hospital. They show compassion, sympathy and kindness to the Gaza Palestinian patients whom I refer to there….”

For more click here: The attempt to bomb Israel 's Soroka hospital: ‘Open letter' by a Palestinian doctor' (Beyond Images Briefing 146, 1 July 2005 )

Postscript: Tragically, three of the daughters of Dr Abulaish died during the 2009 war when a shell struck his house in Jabalya in Gaza city. The event shook the Israeli public. At the time of writing, the question of who fired the shell has not been resolved. Palestinian spokespeople accuse Israel , and the BBC assumes it was Israel . while Israeli spokespeople say the matter is being investigated.

13. Orange ! Opposition in Israel to disengagement

This Briefing concisely outlines the arguments which raged within Israel in the period 2004-5 for and against disengagement from Gaza . Israeli opponents of disengagement, organised under the campaign colour orange , argued that

•  Disengagement would be seen within Gaza as a victory for the rocket squads, and expose Israeli society to intensified attacks after the pullout

•  Disengagement would not be reciprocated by the Palestinians

•  Pressure from the international community on Israel to take risks for peace would increase, not decrease, following the Gaza pullout – they would continue to believe that the cause of the violence was Israel's occupation, even though, in Gaza, Israel had ended it

•  The 8000 Israeli settlers who were being uprooted, and their religious ideals, were being betrayed

•  and Israel would be placing too much reliance on Egypt to help police the Egyptian border with Gaza and curb weapons smuggling into the Strip

Nonetheless, in August 2005, Israel went ahead with disengagement.

Key messages:

•  Many would say that Israel had to disengage. But at the same time, many of the concerns of the opponents have proven to be stunningly accurate.

•  Our key message in 2005 was that large sections of Israeli society experienced anguish and the sacrifice of some long-held visions, as disengagement went through.

•  Following disengagement it would be time for the Palestinians to confront some painful decisions of their own – about their leadership, their ambitions, how to lift themselves beyond the culture of victimhood and demonisation, and how to educate their own society for the compromises needed to reach peace and coexistence with Israel

•  We are now in 2009, and the Palestinians have still not made those decisions.

For more click here: ‘ Orange ! Opposition in Israel to disengagement' (Beyond Images Briefing 153, dated 10 August 2005 )

14. G8 summit in July 2005 pledges $3 billion to the Palestinians ahead of Israel 's Gaza pullout

In the narrative of Palestinian victimhood, little mention is ever made of the massive demonstrations of goodwill, and practical financial support, which the Palestinians of Gaza received in the months around Israel 's pullout.

This international support took place with the full encouragement and backing of Israel .

A key moment was the G8 Gleneagles summit of July 2005, at which leaders of the world's most powerful nations pledged $3bn to help the Palestinian Authority build prototype statehood in Gaza following disengagement (this was worth £1.72bn at the time).

The British Prime Minister at the time, Tony Blair, in announcing the package, stated:

“The purpose of this substantial package is so that two states – Israel and Palestine – two peoples, and two religions can live side by side in peace….”

(reported by BBC News, 8 July 2005 , see )

The tragedy of the greenhouses: At the same time, practical resources were provided to Gazans ‘on the ground'. In particular, then-World Bank President James Wolfensohn organised for the transfer from Israeli businesses to the Palestinians in Gaza of 3000 state-of-the-art greenhouses. The intention was to help to kick-start the Gaza Palestinian agricultural economy. Prior to disengagement these greenhouses had been used by Israeli settlers in some world-leading and profitable agricultural ventures. However, within three weeks, the greenhouses had been looted and seriously damaged by Palestinian gangs (report on Associated Press, 13 September 2005 ).

Key messages:

•  Palestinian spokespeople like to portray themselves as forgotten by the world, and perpetual victims of Israel . The reality is that they are neither. Disengagement offered them an unprecedented opportunity to build a mini-state with international financial backing

•  It was the unending violence, and the Hamas rise to power, which frustrated this possibility

For more click here: ‘The Palestinians are victims of Israel . Discuss…..' (Beyond Images Briefing 196, dated 4 June 2007 )

15. Palestinian groups intensify attacks as Israel pulls out of Gaza

As Israel pulled out of Gaza , Palestinian extremism intensified.

This Briefing, published just before disengagement in July 2005, describes:-

•  ongoing Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians in the West Bank and Gaza

•  how the Palestinians exploit Israeli goodwill gestures to carry out attacks, and

•  ongoing demonisation and incitement against Israel emanating from the mosques of Gaza .

Key messages:

•  Israel 's disengagement was intended to encourage forces of Palestinian moderation.

•  Yet, from the moment Israel carried it out, Palestinian extremists exploited it

•  The war of 2008-9 was the latest stage in this tragic phenomenon

For more click here: ‘ Israel 's Gaza pullout and Palestinian extremism' (Beyond Images Briefing 150, 14 July 2005 )

16. Hamas bomb chief's declaration of renewed war against Israel in the week of disengagement

In the week of disengagement, Hamas bomb-making chief Muhammed Deif said the following in a speech which he published on 27 August 2005 on the website of the Izz-al Din Qassam Brigades ( ), which is the so-called ‘military wing' of Hamas:-

“I thank Allah the exalted for his support in the Jihad of our people and for the liberation of the beloved Gaza Strip, and I ask Him to liberate Jerusalem and the West Bank, Acre, Safed, Haifa, Jaffa, Nazareth, Ashkelon and all of Palestine…..

Residents of occupied Palestine of 1948, in my name and in the name of all Gaza Strip residents, I ask for your assistance to us and to our jihad…. We shall not rest until our entire holy land is liberated….

….To the Zionists who plundered our land, behold you leave it in disgrace….. We promise that tomorrow all of Palestine will become hell for you….”

Key messages:

•  Deif and his Hamas comrades had been responsible for dozens of suicide bombings against Israel during the previous years

•  This menacing message warned Israel what to expect if there was open crossing points between Israel and Gaza

•  Is it any surprise that Israel has prevented normal movement of people in and out of Gaza following disengagement?

For more click here: ‘Hamas leaders in their own words' (Beyond Images Briefing 166, dated 31 January 2006 )

17. Gaza as ‘a large prison camp'? The demand for Palestinian ‘freedom of movement' / the Israeli ‘blockade' of Gaza

Since the week of disengagement, critics of Israel , and all Palestinian spokesmen, have ceaselessly attacked the country for its ‘closure' of Gaza .

The following criticism, within days of disengagement, set the tone:

“ Israel 's pullout from Gaza must include the full opening of all crossing points and freedom of movement…”

- Muammad Muasher, Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister, (reported by Associated Press, 12 September 2005 )

Here are some reasons why ‘freedom of movement' is limited:-

•  Israel and Gaza do not have normal neighbourly relations. The reason for this is that the leadership of Gaza is in a state of permanent long-term confrontation with Israel (see Part 1 of this Special Briefing)

•  From the very outset following disengagement, Palestinian groups made clear their desire to infiltrate into Israel and attack civilians (see sections 15 and 16 above)

•  No government would permit ‘freedom of movement' in view of such threats

•  The crossing points themselves have repeatedly been attacked – an indication that Hamas are not genuinely interested in freedom of movement of Palestinians into Israel, but wish to perpetuate the misery of their people, use that to turn international opinion against Israel, and steadily build up support and respectability

For hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, it is frustrating and very miserable to be living in the Gaza Strip. That was the case before the war, and it is the case now.

But that misery is inflicted upon them by their own leadership, and the doctrines which pervade Palestinian society.

If Palestinian violence meaningfully curbed, and the ideology which drives it lost its grip, then the limitations on movement would no longer be necessary.

For more click here: ‘A large prison camp'? Gaza following Israel 's pullout (Beyond Images Briefing 155, dated 16 September 2005 )

What about the Israeli ‘blockade' of Gaza ?

Since the election of Hamas to Parliament in 2006, and their coup in 2007, Israel has not had normal trade relations with Gaza . The main supplies into Gaza from Israel have been vast consignments of humanitarian aid (see section 37 below).

In view of Hamas doctrine and policy (see section 1 above), the tragedy for Gazan people is that it is pretty obvious why this is so.

The claim that Israel is ‘blockading' Gaza is untrue, not least because since 2005 it has been Egypt which has controlled the Western border of Gaza , not Israel .

At any time it would be open to Egypt to create open borders and permit the free movement of thousands of Gaza Palestinians in and out of Gaza , as well as unrestricted commercial activity.

It is Egypt , not Israel , which prevents freedom of movement, and again it has its legitimate reasons for doing so:-

•  It is very hostile to Hamas, and see its pan-Islamic goals as a threat to Egypt 's own stability and sovereignty

•  Egypt wishes to work only with the Palestinian Authority in regulating border movements, not with Hamas, and the limitations of movement are the result of this bitter Palestinian rivalry

•  Al-Qaeda cells and other Islamist groups are using every opportunity they can to enter Gaza from the Sinai peninsula (controlled by Egypt ) and Egypt wishes to prevent this

•  Egypt is under enormous international pressure to curb weapons smuggling by Hamas and other factions into Gaza , and therefore normal border relations are simply impossible

Key messages:

•  Israel does not have the power to ‘blockade' Gaza , because Gaza shares a border with Egypt too

•  The trade sanctions which Israel applies to Gaza are a legitimate response to the policies and doctrines of those who rule Gaza

•  In the West Bank, Israel is working hard to help the Palestinians build up their economy. This is further strong proof that Israel has no vested interest in creating hardship for the Palestinians

•  The Palestinians of Gaza are suffering, once more, at the hands of their own leaders

18. Rocket attacks on Israeli energy facilities: the risk of catastrophe

By 2006, Palestinian rockets, indiscriminately fired, were hitting Sderot virtually daily, but were also reaching as far as Israeli energy facilities south of the Israeli city of Ashkelon, many kilometres to the north of Gaza.

An attack on a power plant has the potential to cause catastrophic loss of life and damage.

“If fired accurately, a Qassam could cause a huge disaster in the industrial zone, causing severe damage to infrastructure and human lives….”

- senior Israeli police officer specialising in disaster planning, after a rocket strike on the Ashkelon industrial zone in March 2006

For more see: ‘Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza : the threat to Israeli energy facilities' (Beyond Images Briefing 171, 10 April 2006 )

Key messages:

•  Israel cannot be expected to wait for a catastrophic rocket attack, which ignites a power plant near a residential area, or blows up a crowded kindergarten

•  It has an obligation to defend its citizens against such rocket strikes

•  This is the context against which Israeli military action against the Palestinian rocket teams, and their so-called ‘infrastructure', needs to be viewed

19. Qassam rocket attacks quadruple in the year after the pullout

In the year after disengagement, Qassam rocket attacks from Gaza quadrupled in number.

“The children are afraid. We all are. This is a terrible situation…. You hold on and you try to survive….”

- Alama Rafaes, mother of Sderot schoolchildren, quoted in Israeli newspaper on 14 June 2006

For more click here: ‘Qassam rocket attacks since Israel 's pullout from Gaza ' (Beyond Images Briefing 176, 18 June 2006 )

Key messages:

•  Israel 's detractors are adamant that its occupation of the Palestinians causes the violence

•  With disengagement, however, the opposite was true

•  The rocket attacks intensified, not because of the occupation, but because of the end of the occupation

•  Hamas' goals are not territorial. They are ideological.

•  And the people of Israel and of Gaza are suffering as a result

20. The role of Sderot Media and the Israel Project in conveying the reality of life in Sderot

Sderot Media is an energetic grass-roots project, run by an Israeli photo-journalist, which aims to make known to the world the reality of Sderot life.

It conveys a vivid and authentic view of daily living in the face of rocket and missile attacks: see

The Israel Project is an independent, not-for-profit project based in Jerusalem an Washington DC which provides information to journalists and politicians on the situation, tours of the region, and expert briefings. Their website also contains regular updates on rocket attacks, and royalty-free photos taken from the sites struck by missiles: see

Key messages:

•  Sderot Media and The Israel Project convey context .

•  And it is that context which is so vital to understand in commenting on Israel 's policies towards Hamas and Gaza .

•  There are signs that the BBC is also taking this on board, with a greater focus in recent times on the day-to-day experience of Israelis in the South, conveyed by residents in their own words

•  Millions of TV viewers around the world have seen the consequences of Israel 's policies during the 2009 war, without understanding the context of those policies

•  It is harder for the media convey context, than to graphically show consequences

•  Israel does not have the right to expect uncritical support for its policies – but it does have the right to expect informed understanding.

•  Projects like Sderot Media and The Israel Project are crucial to promoting that understanding

  21. The Palestinians in Gaza : anguished self-criticism by leading Palestinian spokesman

This Briefing contains extracts from two impassioned articles published in Palestinian daily newspaper al-Ayyam in 2006, by Dr Ghazi Hamad , who is a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority. He calls on Palestinians to uproot their “culture of violence” and stop blaming others for their mistakes. And he warns that the Palestinians risk losing their freedom in Gaza . Hamad says:

“I want to make a reckoning and own up to our mistakes. We are afraid to speak honestly about our mistakes, as we have become accustomed to place the blame on others. The anarchy, the chaos, pointless murders, the plundering of lands, family feuds…. What do these have to do with the occupation? …..

We have always become accustomed to pinning our failures on others, and conspiratorial thinking is still widespread among us…..

…. In the past we said, time and again, that we are in favour of the liberation of every inch of land. Today, we have thousands of inches – 365 square kilometres, all of Gaza – and nonetheless we have not succeeded in keeping this great blessing, and we have begun to lose it…..”

For more click here: ‘The Palestinians of Gaza: anguished self-criticism by leading Palestinian spokesman' (Beyond Images Briefing 185, dated 5 November 2006 )

Key message:

•  It is rare to read such words from a Palestinian figure

•  But these words reveal the basic truth that it is not Israel which has caused Palestinians to be victims, but the ideologies and policies of their own leaders

22. Twenty seconds to take cover: Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli kindergartens and schools

This Briefing describes terrifying and potential lethal attacks on Israeli nurseries, kindergartens and schools, during 2006. This includes:-

•  an attack on Israeli schoolchildren at the Nativ Yeshivati school

•  how Sderot nursery children were miraculously saved from likely death by a hedge

•  How a basketball court was struck at an after-school activity centre

•  and the emergency drill used by teachers when the rocket warning sirens go off

We quote one school headteacher:

“…Once the siren is heard we have to take cover within 20 seconds”.

And she goes on to describe a double-rocket strike right outside the school:

“We all ran inside the fortified rooms. After the first fall I wanted to go outside to see if the children were alright, but the blast of the second rocket threw me back into the class. That's when I knew that the second strike was very close to us….

….. A miracle saved the childrens' lives that morning….”

And a nursery teacher describes how she trains her 3-5 year old children to enter the security room:

“They walk quickly, in a way which has become routine, stay quiet and wait for the rocket to explode….”

For more click here: ‘Twenty seconds to take cover: Qassam rocket attacks on Israeli schoolchildren' (Beyond Images Briefing 188, dated 31 December 2006 )

Key messages:

•  Palestinian attacks on Sderot are indiscriminate

•  The attacks on innocent schoolchildren which are described above each occurred after Israel withdrew from Gaza , after the Palestinian leadership declared a 2006 ceasefire, and without Israel retaliating

•  Can it come as a surprise that by December 2008, the Israeli government was saying that “enough is enough”?

23. The Palestinian weapons build-up in 2007

This Briefing provides key facts about the militarization of the Gaza Strip following disengagement, covering:

•  a massive build-up of missiles, rockets and bomb-making materials;

•  the transformation of Hamas from being a terrorist group into a fully-fledged and heavily armed militia

•  the training of Hamas bombers in Iran ;

•  the emergence of global jihadist groups in Gaza (a trend still denied by Hamas);

•  increased Palestinian efforts to kidnap Israelis following the kidnap of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit;

•  and the continuing threat to Israel from Islamic Jihad.

Key messages:

•  Israel faces a daunting build-up of weapons capability by Hamas in Gaza , and unswerving determination to continue ‘resistance'

•  Israel has no choice but to judge the Palestinians, and the threat they pose, by their deeds as well as by their words

•  The six-month truce of June-December 2008 left Hamas free to continue its military build-up which is exactly what they did (see Section 33 below), with Israel unable to prevent it

•  In December 2008 Israel struck at Hamas military infrastructure. One purpose was to thwart this further military build-up

For more click here: ‘The Palestinian weapons build-up 2007' (Beyond Images Briefing 191, dated 18 March 2007 )

24. “How many Jews did mama kill today?' Children on a Hamas-run Palestinian TV station

This Briefing contains excerpts from an interview with the children of Palestinian suicide bomber Rim al-Riyashi, which was broadcast on Palestinian al-Aqsa TV on 8 March 2007 . The children, aged 4 and 6, are urged by the TV interviewer to recite a poem describing their mother as a ‘fire bomb' while in kindergarten. The interviewer coaxes the children on by asking: “How many Jews did mama kill….?”

For more click here: ‘How many Jews did Mama kill….? Children on Palestinian TV' (Beyond Images Briefing 192, dated 27 March 2007 )

Key messages:

•  Small Palestinian children are brainwashed from a young age into hating Israel , and glorifying violence against it

•  They never hear the ‘other side'. They never learn the human side of Israel , or its peoples' yearning for peace

•  It's this brainwashing and perpetual sense of victimhood that are an underlying driver for the seemingly unending violence.….

•  See MEMRI on , and Palestinian Media Watch on for extensive coverage of Palestinian media output, and incitement

•  See also Beyond Images Briefing 210 ( 20 January 2008 ) entitled ‘Arab incitement against the West: Islamic scholar protests on al-Jazeera', which contains an impassioned plea to Arab societies to end the incitement against Israel and the West, which are described as self-destructive

25. The Hamas rocket onslaught on Sderot, May 2007

Hamas led an intensified rocket assault on Israel during May 2007.

This followed nearly six months of steady Palestinian rocket attacks when Israel did not fire back. They suffered over 330 rocket strikes from Gaza onto Israeli territory, without an Israeli reply .

For more click here: ‘The Hamas rocket offensive against Sderot' (Beyond Images Briefing 195, dated 21 May 2007 )

Key messages:

•  When Israelis argue that Israel has showed ‘restraint' in the past, they are referring to periods such as this. Israel could not, however, carry on like this indefinitely

•  The Hamas attacks make life impossible for the citizens of Sderot, and could not be tolerated by any sovereign state with the means to defend itself

•  Hamas strategy is one of sabotage: sabotage of a two-state solution, sabotage of stability, and sabotage of efforts to rebuild Palestinian society

26. ‘The Western economic boycott has brought Gaza Palestinians to their knees…..' – true?

The rise to power of Hamas made it impossible for Israel to engage as a normal neighbour with Gaza (see Section 17 above).

But although the border was closed to normal trade relations, huge amounts of economic assistance were channelled into Gaza by the West, mainly via the Non-Governmental agencies, to support the civilian population and to avoid a humanitarian disaster.

In 2007, a senior UN official, Alexander Costy, described Western aid levels to the Palestinians as “ quite stunning , [our emphasis] given the relatively small size of the population of the Palestinian territory….”

In this Briefing, we highlight Costy's comments, and the high levels of Western financial support. In particular:-

•  During 2005-7, aid from the US , the EU and the IMF to the Palestinians increased by 22%, despite the rise to power of Hamas

•  During this period, the US was the largest single donor of humanitarian aid to the Palestinians

•  The IMF alone contributed over $1bn during this period

•  There was no cut-off of direct aid to the Palestinian people following the rise of Hamas to power, but the cut-off was of financial support direct to Hamas

•  Arab states contributed only around 15% of the combined contributions of the US , the EU, the UN and the IMF to the Palestinians during this period

For more click here: ‘The Western economic boycott has brought Gaza Palestinians to their knees….' (Beyond Images Briefing 199, dated 15 August 2007 )

27. How an Israeli ambulance team saved a Gaza Palestinian child's life….

Israeli medical teams routinely pick up Palestinian children and transport them from Gaza crossing points to Israeli hospitals.

“We transfer patients from Gaza under fire on a daily basis. Last week our medics continued to treat a Palestinian patient while shells were fired at the crossing terminal into Gaza . During the recent Jewish holidays we evacuated another baby in an incubator, endangering our ambulance staff….”

- Moshe Vaknin, senior official with the MDA (the Israeli emergency service), quoted on on 27 May 2007

This Briefing describes an incident where an Israeli ambulance team saved the life of a Palestinian baby…. on the same day that Israeli father-of-two Oshri Oz was killed by a Qassam rocket in Sderot.

Key messages:

•  Most critics of Israel completely disregard the steps which Israel takes to relieve the plight of Palestinian civilians in Gaza

•  Sometimes those steps actually endanger Israelis – but as with this example, they nonetheless take them

•  And don't forget the power of stories as tools for advocacy. The story of Moshe Vaknin and his MDA team epitomises the ethical dilemma Israel faces: having to confront Hamas who are in a state of perpetual ideological warfare with Israel , while trying to build coexistence with the Palestinian people as a whole

For more click here: ‘How an Israeli ambulance team saved a Gaza Palestinian child's life' (Beyond Images Briefing 197, dated 26 June 2007 )

28. Access by Gaza Palestinians to Israeli hospitals: the facts

‘Blockade'. ‘Siege'. ‘Hell'. Just a few of the expressions commonly used by commentators to describe the experience of the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip since Israel 's withdrawal in August 2005.

This description is fuelled, above all, by the claim that Israel has deprived the Palestinians of access to Israeli hospitals to receive medical treatment.

Israel is perceived as ruthless, and inhumane.

This Briefing provides some basic facts which dispel this claim. Far from cutting off access by Gaza Palestinians to Israeli hospitals, the level of access has been extensive, and actually increased in the period 2006-2008, despite Hamas taking power. The bare statistics show that:-

•  12,400 Palestinians from Gaza (including a family companion) entered Israel for medical treatment in the 18 months till February 2008

•  There marked a 50% increase in patients in 2007, from the 2006 figure

There are many further aspects of this medical access:-

Treatment in Israeli hospitals without distinction: “We treat hundreds of Gazans here every year. Most of them are extremely ill, many of them have bullet wounds. But we never ask them how they were injured or whether they belong to Hamas. Even if they're terrorists, they're treated like any other person.. …” (Deputy Director of the Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon , quoted in Der Spiegel, 17 April 2008 )

Palestinians abuse Israeli medical access to plan suicide attacks: On several occasions, Palestinians have abused medical documentation to enter Israel to carry out or assist in suicide attacks. This Briefing 215 documents these attempts, with sources.

Palestinian attacks on Gaza Strip crossing points: There have been at least 19 major Palestinian attacks on the crossing points into and out of Gaza since 2000, thus sabotaging the arrangements for Palestinians to enter Israel for treatment

Hamas responsibility for the humanitarian situation: This Briefing provides statements from mid-2008 from the European Union and the Palestinian Authority blaming Hamas for aggravating the humanitarian situation in Gaza

For more click here: ‘Access by Gaza Palestinians to Israeli hospitals: the facts' (Beyond Images Briefing 215, dated 9 July 2008 )

29. Israeli attacks, Hamas attacks:

Moral equivalence…. ? A ‘cycle of violence'….?

This Briefing challenges the idea that there is a ‘cycle of violence' between Israel and Hamas, or that there is ‘moral equivalence' between the two. We highlight the following arguments:-

•  The objectives of Hamas and Israel are totally different. Israel desires to build a Palestinian state. Hamas aims to dismantle the Jewish one.

•  Their plans for Gaza are totally different. Israel views Gaza as the foundation for a Palestinian mini-state. Hamas views Gaza as a front line in the Islamist confrontation with Israel , urged on by Iran

•  Their attitudes to civilian casualties are totally different. Israel strikes Hamas to quell the illegal rocket attacks on its civilian population. Hamas targets Israeli civilians indiscriminately

•  Their attitudes to civilian suffering are totally different. Israel has maintained humanitarian assistance into Gaza , to try to alleviate the suffering of innocent Palestinians. Hamas whips up supporters to rejoice in causing suffering to innocent Israelis

There is no moral equivalence between Hamas and Israel . But it is necessary to understand the context for the Israel-Hamas confrontation to appreciate this.

For more click here: ‘Israeli attacks, Hamas attacks: Moral equivalence…? A cycle of violence…. ? (Beyond Images Briefing 212, dated 9 March 2008 )

30. Israel offers to pull out of 93% of the West Bank, plus 7% more land: Palestinians say no

While Hamas policies made it impossible for Israel to negotiate with them, Israel embarked upon intensive negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, following the Annapolis conference of November 2007, which were aimed at achieving the framework for a two-state solution.

This Briefing describes the Israeli offer which was made in the course of the 2008 negotiations to withdraw from 93% of the West Bank, and also provide 7% further land to the Palestinians, including a corridor linking the West Bank and Gaza , and an expansion in the size of the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians immediately rejected the proposal.

Key messages:

•  Commentators constantly call for Israel to be pressured to address the core issues of the conflict. Here they did so – and its proposals were instantly rejected

•  Israel is condemned internationally for maintaining its occupation of the West Bank . In fact, Palestinian decisions are perpetuating that presence. And it's the Palestinian ‘moderates'' mindset which is impeding progress towards a two-state solution, almost as much as the outright rejectionism of Hamas.

For more click here: ‘2008: Israel offers to pull out of 93% of the West Bank , plus 7% more land' (Beyond Images Briefing 225, dated 3 December 2008 )

31. Barack Obama's statement on visiting Sderot in July 2008

In 2006-8, an increasing number of foreign politicians visited Sderot to “see for themselves” what life was like there.

During a press conference at the end of his visit to Sderot in July 2008, Senator and then presidential candidate Barack Obama said the following:-

“If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters slept, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that…. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing….”

For more click here: ‘ Israel strikes Hamas in Gaza ' (Beyond Images Briefing 228, dated 2 January 2009 )

32. The Grad-Katyusha missile threat

2008 also witnessed the build-up of the Palestinian arsenal of Grad-Katyusha missiles – with greater range and explosive power than the Qassams. These weapons were smuggled into Gaza via the tunnels Hamas constructed.

These weapons have caused terror inside Israel , as well as bringing many more towns and cities within range of Palestinian rocket squads. For instance:-

“On 14 May 2008 a Grad missile launched from Northern Gaza struck a womens' health clinic located in a shopping mall in the Israeli town of Ashkelon , wounding 34 people, and burying several shoppers under rubble.

Medical personnel also treated 62 people for shock at the scene…..”

- taken from the news archive of BICOM ( ), 14 May 2008

During the war, and since the parties declared their ceasefires at the end of the fighting on 17 January 2009 , Palestinian rocket squads have fired yet more Grad missiles into Israel .

Key messages:

•  The increased use by Palestinians of Grad-Katyusha missiles is a vital piece of context

•  Israel cannot be expected to wait until a Grad attack inflicts mass casualties

•  It has a right of self-defence to prevent such weapons being fired at its civilian populations

33. ‘ Israel did not honour the 2008 ceasefire, so Hamas resumed rocket fire….' – true?

In June 2008, after months of mediation through Egypt , Hamas and Israel entered into a six-month ceasefire. Hamas would not fire rockets into Israel , and would prevent Palestinian factions from doing so either. Israel would not conduct attacks on Gaza targets, or launch military incursions. On 19 December 2008 , Hamas announced that it would not be extending the ceasefire and it launched several days' barrages of rockets into Israel (numbering over 300).

It was this escalation that led Israel to launch Operation Cast Lead on 27 December, which is the subject matter of this Special Briefing.

Hardly surprisingly, the events surrounding the ceasefire, and its conclusion, are fiercely controversial. Two central claims are made against Israel – below we address and rebut both of them.

Claim 1:

‘ Israel was obliged to “lift” the closure of Gaza during the 2008 ceasefire but did not do so….'


•  It is not true that Israel was obliged to lift its trade sanctions. The most it was required to do was to ease some day-to-day restrictions, with the pace of that change depending on how effectively Hamas curbed rocket fire

•  During the ceasefire Israel did indeed facilitate greater movement of goods, merchandise and construction materials into Gaza . This is confirmed by the independent Palestinian business group the Palestine Trade Center ( ) which reported on 19 November 2008 that there had been a “slight improvement” in flow of goods into Gaza during the ceasefire. According to the same source, the number of trucks entering Gaza increased by 50% during the ceasefire

•  The overall sanctions imposed on Gaza by Israel are the result of Hamas policy, the Hamas track-record, and the security threat posed to Israel by Islamist groups in Gaza (see section 17 above).

Claim 2:

‘ Israel attacked Gaza and thus failed to honour it, thus forcing Hamas to refuse to extend the ceasefire, and resume rocket attacks….'

Response 2:

•  This claim inverts history, and the facts.

•  According to the IDF, 538 rockets and missiles were fired at Israel from Gaza during the 6 month so-called ‘ceasefire', either by Hamas, or by factions operating from territory which Hamas controls. These were flagrant breaches of the ceasefire

•  During the ceasefire, Hamas continued to build-up its armaments including by smuggling Iranian-supplied missiles into Gaza .

•  And Palestinian groups continued to attempt to kidnap Israeli soldiers (they already hold Gilad Shalit).

•  On 4 November 2008 Israel did launch an incursion into Gaza for a very short period, and this is often used by critics to allege that it was Israel which brought the ceasefire to an end. But the purpose of that operation was to destroy tunnels which were being dug from Gaza into Israel , and which they were sure were intended to be used to kidnap Israeli soldiers (a goal frequently proclaimed as a priority by Palestinian groups)

•  By December 2008, Israeli Foreign Minister Livni was so bitter about the way Hamas were abusing the so-called ‘ceasefire' to rearm that she called the arrangement a source of “shame” for Israel

Part 3 – The Israel-Hamas war December 2008 – January 2009

34. The humanitarian case for Israel's war against Hamas, by Amos Oz and others

On 27 December 2008 Israel launched a three-week military operation to reduce the threat posed to Israel by Hamas. This Briefing provides the text of three speeches in support of Israel 's decision to go to war:-

•  by acclaimed Israel writer, and icon of the centre-left Amos Oz

•  by 23 year old Sderot law student Liraz Madmony, speaking at the UN Human Rights Council, and

•  by Gabriella Shalev, Israel 's Ambassador to the UN, speaking before the UN Security Council.

These speeches are lucid, firm and passionate. Each advocates strongly for Israel 's right of self-defence. And each reminds listeners that Israelis have the human right not to live in perpetual fear of rocket attack.

For more click here: ‘The humanitarian case for Israel 's war against Hamas, by Amos Oz and others' (Beyond Images Briefing 232, dated 30 January 2009 )

35. Israel strikes Hamas in Gaza: Palestinian, Egyptian, European and American voices blame Hamas

Influential Palestinian, Arab, European and American politicians and commentators blamed Hamas, often with great anger, for causing Israel to strike against Hamas. For instance:-

•  Ahmed Abu Gheit, Egyptian Foreign Minister: “ Egypt warned Hamas for a long time, and someone who ignores warnings is responsible for the outcome…..” (Ynet News, 28 December 2008 )

•  Bassem abu-Summayah, director of Palestinian TV: “Hamas blocked its ears…. They should have had even a little bit of political and security sense, and not left people wandering, and losing their way, getting killed and injured. It is clear that Hamas was struck by megalomania since they took over Gaza , which blinded them so that they would not listen to any advice….” (al-Hayat al-Jadida, 29 December 2008 )

•  Nimr Hammad, adviser to Mahmoud Abbas: “Hamas needs to stop treating the blood of Palestinians lightly….” (al-Ahkbar, 28 December 2008 )

Key messages:

•  It's not only Israel which accuses Hamas of having caused the war. Palestinians and others do the same.

•  It follows that Hamas bears ultimate responsibility for the tragic loss of life and suffering of innocent Palestinian civilians which followed.

For more click here: ‘ Israel strikes Hamas in Gaza : Palestinian, Egyptian, European and American voices blame Hamas' (Beyond Images Briefing 228, dated 2 January 2009 )

36. The fighting in Gaza, proportionality and the laws of war: international lawyer explains rules

International law quickly became one of the key issues surrounding the war between Hamas and Israel .

This Briefing provides the text of an interview which appeared in the Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post on 16 January 2009 with Dr Robert Sabel, who is a lecturer in international law at Hebrew University , and formerly legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The interview provides a concise and balanced summary of the international law principles.

We add an important statement on proportionality from the President of the International Court of Justice, Dame Rosalyn Higgins, background on the allegations against Israel regarding the use of white phosphorous, and why Hamas use of Palestinian civilians as human shields is a war crime.

For more click here: ‘The fighting in Gaza , proportionality and the laws of war' (Beyond Images Briefing 231, dated 25 January 2009 )

See also: On 28 2008 the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) in Jerusalem published a very detailed examination of all aspects of international law as they apply to the conflict in Gaza. See ‘International Law and the Fighting in Gaza ' by JR Weiner and A Bell, December 2008 (the paper can be downloaded from the website of the JCPA at )

Key messages:

Was Israel 's military objective in striking at Hamas legitimate?

•  The rocket attacks on Israel are acts of war, and Israel is entitled to exercise its right of self-defence, as enshrined in the UN Charter

•  Israel 's response to Hamas cannot be measured ‘in proportion' only to the latest loss of life on the Israeli side. It has to be measured against the overall threat which Israel faces, and aims to curb. That threat comprised:-

•  Over 8000 rockets and missiles fired into Israel since 2001

•  Over 850 rockets fired into Israel during the three week fighting

•  The prospect of further Hamas rearmament in the future, including the Hamas desire to obtain the Iranian al-Fajr missile which can reach Israel 's national airport of Ben-Gurion

•  This is the context against which the proportionality of Israel 's military reaction has to be measured

•  A proportionate response does not require Israel to fire one rocket for every rocket which lands on its territory, any more than in the 1973 Yom Kippur war Israel would have been obliged to respond to an attack by 500 Egyptian tanks with a counter-attack of 500 Israeli tanks

But surely the greater number of casualties on the Palestinian side indicates a disproportionate response by Israel ?

Key messages:

•  Hamas blurred the civilian-military distinction, and was widely condemned for using civilians as human shields (see Section 37 below). This contributed hugely to the Palestinian casualty figures in Gaza

•  Israel 's civil defence system in its towns and cities minimised the number of Israeli casualties

•  In addition, Israeli citizens have experienced many miraculous escapes from death from rocket attacks (see for instance section 22 above)

•  Hamas made very little attempt to shelter or protect Palestinian civilians (though its own leaders used underground bunkers to protect themselves – see the allegations in Section 37 below)

•  Casualty figures are also a matter of intention.

•  A party engaged in conflict acts disproportionately if it aims to inflict deliberate suffering on a civilian population, or if its measures are bound to cause harm which cannot be justified by the military goals being pursued

•  As is well known, Israel issued warnings in advance of its military strikes on Hamas targets such as the homes of its leaders, and command and control centers, urging civilians to flee the area

•  These warnings were issued by text message, by leaflet drops, and by Israel interrupting Palestinian radio broadcasts

•  These steps were taken by Israel to try to reduce the harm caused to Palestinian civilians by the fighting. At the time of writing, more stories are starting to emerge of how Israeli ground units endangered themselves to try to avoid harm to Palestinians

•  Such methods are virtually unheard of in warfare, and gave Hamas units time to escape the fighting

•  Hamas is ultimately responsible for the casualties which the Palestinians nonetheless suffered

37. Gaza Palestinian victims of Hamas human rights violations and war crimes: illustrations

Hamas brazenly violated the human rights of Gaza Palestinians during the war, and committed war crimes.

“Hamas turned houses and mosques into battlegrounds so that the people would protect them, and those who trusted them now regret it….”

- Arab commentator writing on Arab online news website Elaph ( ) on 9 January 2009

This Briefing includes the following:-

•  An explanation of the Hamas ‘human shield' doctrine, in the words of their spokesman Fathi Hamad

•  How a Gaza family's farm was commandeered by Hamas, and the family's fear of protesting

•  Condemnations of Hamas human rights violations by the UN's Head of Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, and by Louis Michel, the EU's Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid

•  An attack on Hamas tactics by a senior Fatah official, broadcast on Al-Jazeera

•  Attempted hijackings of Palestinian ambulances, and food aid supplies, by Hamas gunmen

•  Accounts of torture by Hamas of opponents, and the use by Hamas of mosques as detention centres

Key messages:

Critics of Israel are all-too-willing to blame Israel for bringing suffering on the people of Gaza . But these critics routinely disregard the suffering which Hamas itself has brought on the Palestinians

And they do not ask themselves whether their calls to ‘engage' with Hamas are actually encouraging Hamas to continue with its extreme internal agend

At the time of writing, more stories are emerging in the international press, virtually daily, of human rights abuses by Hamas during the course of the war.

See for example the stories on the Jerusalem Post ( ) and highlighted by the Daily Alert ( ).

And see the report on the Israel Foreign Ministry website ( ) called ‘Hamas war crimes in Gaza ' dated 29 January 2009 , and based on investigations by journalists entering Gaza

For more click here: ‘Gaza Palestinian victims of Hamas human rights violations, and war crimes' (Beyond Images Briefing 233, dated 2 February 2009 )

38. Israeli humanitarian support to Gaza: food, medical supplies, access to hospital treatment, supplies of fuel and electricity – facts

Israel 's detractors claim that Israel has completely ‘blockaded' Gaza since the takeover by Hamas.

But this is simply not true. Since 2007 many thousands of truckloads of supplies have been brought from Israel into Gaza . Fuel supplies from Israel into Gaza have also continued (despite several Palestinian attacks on the Nahal Oz fuel depot from which much of the fuel comes). Meanwhile, thousands of Gazans have accessed hospital treatment in Israel (see section 28 above).

During the three-week fighting in Operation Cast Lead, which ended on 17 January 2009 , this humanitarian support via Israel to the ordinary people of Gaza continued. According to Israeli Foreign Ministry figures, which are not disputed either by international aid agencies or by the Palestinian recipients themselves:-

•  During these three weeks, 1365 truckloads of food, medical supplies, blood units, and other essentials were brought into Gaza from Israel; and

•  440,000 litres of fuel were supplied to Gaza from Israel , mainly from the Nahal Oz fuel terminal, which Palestinians had bombed only a few months earlier

The best source of information on Israel 's continued humanitarian support to Gaza can be found on the following website:-

Other websites which contain useful data on this topic are

•  The Israel Project – , (US-Israel based project which supplies information and briefs journalists and politicians – see section 20 above), and

•  BICOM – (a UK-based Israel advocacy project)

39. Building coexistence – a message from the UK Chief Rabbi

UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks expressed the feelings of many with the following words, which he delivered before a crowd of around 15,000 people in Trafalgar Square , London at a rally in support of Israel which took place on Sunday 11 January 2009 :

“ Israel 's friends and opponents want the same thing. They want Palestinian children to grow up with hope. So do we. They want Palestinians to be able to live in dignity. So do we. They want Palestinian parents to have work, income, and a life for their families. So do we….

…. The time has come for supporters of the Israelis and supporters of the Palestinians to start to work together to bring aid to the injured, comfort to the bereaved, and passionate commitment to the peaceful coexistence of both sides….

(quote from an article based on the Chief Rabbi's speech, published in the UK-based Jewish Chronicle on 16 January 2009 )

Key messages:

•  These are stirring words, words of humanity and compassion

•  (It must be added that not all of “ Israel 's opponents” want coexistence. Many want to see the elimination of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel . With them, there is no basis for seeking coexistence).

•  Following the human tragedies of Gaza, graphically beamed across the world via TV, the Internet, and print media, it is important to remind the world of the utmost importance which Judaism attaches to human dignity, and the need to protect it, even in the face of an adversary which “desires death, as the Israelis desire life” (see Briefing 233)

•  The Israel-Palestinian conflict is not a ‘zero-sum' game in which victory for one is defeat for the other

•  A task of Israel advocacy is to argue rationally and humanely for the legitimate rights of both the Jewish and the Palestinian people (as well as all the other peoples of the region) and to help build a framework in which these rights can coexist

40. Further Beyond Images resources

This Special Beyond Images Briefing has concentrated on Israel , Gaza and Hamas.

But of course this is only one element of the wider conflict. Please see the Beyond Images website for the following resources:-

•  235 Briefings on core issues such as Negotiations, the Arab League ‘Peace Initiative', Arab rights inside Israel, Israel's security fence, boycotts and divestment, the demonisation of Israel, and many other topics

•  Israel 's fundamental case in a nutshell

•  Israel Accused: 50 concise responses

•  Israel 's democratic and humanitarian values: examples from the midst of conflict

• How Israel is making the world a better place through its global scientific and humanitarian contributions

…and many others.

Our goal is quite simple: to support those who wish to make Israel 's basic case in a balanced, effective and humane way.

We don't ask that Israel should receive uncritical support. But Israel is entitled to expect to receive informed understanding, within the Jewish community, and within the wider world.

The purpose of this Special Briefing has been to help to foster that understanding.

We welcome your comments, which can be emailed to

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